Kirsten de Keyser

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Kirsten de Keyser

About KirstenForLondon

London Assembly Candidate 2021 Parliamentary Candidate for Holborn and St Pancras 2019

Our head of state is a lame duck

Defenders of monarchy are frankly naïve when they suggest that our constitutional monarchy wields no political influence. The monarch’s backstage clout is formidable.

Apart from being singularly undemocratic, the House of Windsor is the pinnacle of the entire “honours” system, culminating in the bizarre, unelected, bloated House of Lords.

Monarchists claim that an elected head of state would, by default, need to be nominated by a political party.

Wrong. Democratically, our head of state could perfectly well be appointed by parliament, provided it is truly representative of all citizens.

Such a parliament would need to be elected by proportional representation, as in any other western democracy. So we’d have to update our voting system. Let’s get on with it.

Candidates standing for selection could even be independents and Charles Windsor would be perfectly entitled to stand on his own platform.

As it is, our head of state is a lame duck, costing us a fortune and exempt from being pursued by the long arm of the law for a whole host of misdemeanours, but, at the same time, bound and gagged by our unwritten constitution (that needs changing for a start). It’s the worst of all worlds.

The death of Elizabeth II, occurring just as we find ourselves in a true maelstrom of one-in-a-hundred-year events, provides a golden opportunity to look hard at what’s going wrong and choose a new and better way forward.

Let’s listen to Albert Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” He got it right; we must grasp this opportunity and begin a wholesale reinvention of how we govern ourselves.

Monarchists’ heads are in the sand. They – and the rest of us – need the courage to start anew. If we’re going to change our monarchy, surely, we can come up with a way of choosing a new head of state that goes beyond our existing tired two-party political system.

The alternative is sticking with a head of state who’s only there because he happens to have been born by a certain mum.

Don’t withdraw Pensioners’ Freedom Pass – means test it

Highgate Village, London N6, 271 bus terminal

This is going to be one of those blog posts that will see me deserted by 75% of my, more well-healed, good friends. To compensate, it should also cause my daughter’s friends to offer me a never ending stream of drinks down the newly reopened pub round the corner. It’s a generation thing.

But, whichever colour of politics you daub it with, my view is based entirely on logic coupled with an ingrained sense of fairness. As it is also a guaranteed loser of pensioner votes, it will never come to pass, unless more Millenials suddenly decide to check out the inside of their polling station on election day,

Conservative London Mayoral Candidate in next week’s elections Shaun Bailey is suggesting that the Pensioner Freedom Pass be scrapped. The pass allows pensioners free travel on all London transport but has been suspended during peak hours since the Covid breakout.

This was meant to ease congestion and was ‘only temporary’. There are now mumblings about making the withdrawal permanent.

Withdrawing the Freedom Pass from pensioners must be the worst kind of economic stupidity. The resulting cost of fixing cash strapped pensioners’ mental and physical health as a result of being cooped up 24/7 is incalculable.

If funds need to be redistributed, by all means tie the Freedom Pass to an affordability database like the pension credit calculator, for example, but don’t just kick the crutch out from under already struggling pensioners.

The pension credit threshold already applies to the BBC licence fee, and should incidentally be used to calculate the winter fuel payment and prescription charges as well. 

British pension provision is spectacularly unequal, due to its reliance on privately funded pension plans. Wealthier pensioners are comfortably cushioned against the economic realities of life in retirement, while less well off retirees on a state pension, often of less than £100 a week, depend desperately on free travel when it is often difficult to get around. 
The same souls also need help towards keeping their home warm in winter, access to television for news and a little entertainment and obviously free health provision. 

Many better off pensioners complain about the prospect of having to pay something towards their travel card, while merrily forking out several thousand pounds a year for medical insurance. They don’t need a free travel pass.

Calculated properly, this is a zero sum game. Instead of universal support, based purely on age, let’s redistribute funds saved from those who don’t need them, to those who do need them. 

No one should have too much, while someone else has too little. Surely that is the fair way to move forward.

And I probably have too many friends anyway. But to the rest of you, mine’s a Bloody Mary round the corner at the “Drum and Trumpet”.

06 May London Elects! Apply for your postal vote by April 20!

Thursday May 06 – London elects a new Mayor and Assembly!

Apply for a postal vote before April 20 here:

It takes five minutes to register and you’re good to go!

“Saved by greed and capitalism”. Is Boris Johnson right?

Boris Johnson is right on the money when he credits greed and capitalism with the UK’s runaway Covid-19 vaccine success. Greed is Good is back in fashion and there has certainly been a lot of it about lately.

“The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed, my friends,” said Boris Johnson last week to a triumphant meeting of his cabinet.

The UK vaxx’ing fest has probably more to do with the NHS rolling out the programme themselves, rather than mirroring the staggeringly inept “NHS” Test and Trace programme, which incidentally has nothing to do with the NHS. That programme is the proud property of Serco, the accident prone outfit that so very nearly brought the London 2012 Olympics to a juddering halt.

Boris Johnson is correct. But why stop at the vaccines? Why not highlight the long line of events during this past 12 months, all entirely down to greed and capitalism?

The March 2020 Cheltenham Festival and the football at a rammed Anfield stadium both went ahead with a government seal of approval the very same week that the shadowy breath of Covid-19 descended on our land. And how about the pile of multimillion pound failed contracts for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), or the bright idea of Eat Out to Help Out, the 1% pay rise for nurses and the poverty pay for carers in for-profit care homes, to name but a few.

All can be laid at the door of greed and capitalism, no more, no less. Without greed and capitalism, our Covid journey would have progressed very differently and thousands of our fellow citizens would likely now be looking forward to that pint down the pub with their families and friends.

Of course, our Prime Minister is a master of spin, selective evidence and sleight of mouth. Attributes that win him prizes.

But the rest of us will not forget in a hurry. We will remember that at the very moment when everyone else was locking out Covid-19 by locking down their countries, Boris Johnson decided to be off to Cheltenham for the races! Yes! Let’s all 250.000 of us don our top hats and outlandish outfits and go for a big bet bonanza. Kerching! To greed and capitalism!

Besides, Tory darling Dido Harding (she of Test and Trace) sits on the board of the Jockey Club, which is responsible for the Cheltenham Festival. Who knew?

Let’s throw in another 60.000 tightly packed Liverpool and Atletico Madrid fans at Anfield for a raucous game of footie. Wouldn’t want to upset scores of football fans by cancelling that. They all vote and millions of them inhabit those precious Red Wall Seats. To no one’s great surprise, two weeks later, cases of Covid-19 mushroomed close to both venues and beyond. Oops!

The ensuing tsunami inundating the country’s hospitals brought with it the urgent need for mountains of PPE and millions of test kits. Who do you call?

A 10 Downing Street panicked conversation might have gone something like this: How about that bloke who lives next door to Matt Hancock? He might like to have a crack at that multi million pound contract. Ok, so he has no experience whatsoever, but neither does any of our other mates who we’re giving contracts to, so that’s ok. Keep it in the family.

After all, that’s just how greed and capitalism roll.

And so we all careered whack-a-mole-fashion through 2020, mingling merrily for Christmas and on into 2021, with hospitals and cemeteries running out of space, shops and hairdressers opening and shutting and opening. And shutting.

Tens of thousands of friends, neighbours, grannies and grandads, mums, dads, aunts, uncles and young children dying – alone. At the time of writing that’s the equivalent of the entire city of Gloucester – annihilated. Hundreds of front line staff sacrificed on the alter of the bungled provision of PPE, as supplied by a random selection of ministerial mates.

The economy tanked – obviously. But never short of a novel solution, our government performed a breathtaking handbrake turn, flipping their daily message effortlessly from Stay Home, Save Lives to Eat Out to Help Out.

Gagging for a pint and a burger, everyone piled in down the boozer and a vacant restaurant table became more scarce than a lateral flow test kit.

Tick…tock…tick…tock BRRIIING!! Two weeks later, rampant infection spikes all over the place. We were back in the death spiral, the only shot in the arm going to greed and capitalism.

So, Boris Johnson, what do you think of the greed and capitalism show so far? You forgot to mention that, had it not been for greed and capitalism, we would now be in a very different place. As it is, exactly one year since our first lockdown, we have the fourth highest number of covid deaths in Europe and the third worst economic downturn on the planet.

We also have a select band of newly minted millionaires. Now would be an ideal moment for them to give us back our ball. They should not be hard to find. Boris Johnson has them all on speed dial.

Led by donkeys

Fares’ Fair!

2021 Mayoral and London Assembly Elections

Postponed from 2020 due to the pandemic, now scheduled to take place on May 6 2021

I represent the Greens for the GLA constituency of Barnet and Camden. Barnet is in Zone 5 and Camden is in Zone 2.

My current favourite Green Party policy is to introduce flat fares across the public transport networks, buses, tubes, overground.

It’s ridiculous that half my fellow constituents pay £1209 more for their annual season ticket than the other half. That has to stop and Greens are leaning hard on the other parties to join us in this essential campaign.

So this is Christmas?

The year was 1971, our world was in turmoil. The United States began a second decade of involvement in Vietnam, A Belfast Bar Bomb killed 15 people. Decimal currency was launched in Britain.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono sang to the world from their crumpled New York double bed, while we all intoned mournfully ‘So this is Christmas’. Fast forward half a century and start singing. The same song.

“War Is Over [If You Want It]” is a kind of love letter to humanity.  ‘If You Want It’ reminding us that, if we want a better world, we need to be the change we want to see.

But for 50 years no one took a blind bit of notice. And 2021 will wake to global challenges ballooning to dizzying heights. We still march to the drum beat of war, wrap our oceans in plastic, rasp our way through our oil-polluted lives and spray our crops and critters to extinction. And suddenly – BOOM – a Coronavirus pandemic rampages through our communities, unannounced.

And so this is Christmas, but not as we know it. Lennon’s 1971 song has our nearest and dearest of all ages celebrating the festival with us, as they have for centuries. The likelihood is that, in 2020, not many of them will be beating a path to our front door to have fun.

Lennon also wishes us a Happy New Year, hoping that it will be one without fear. Let’s hope, indeed, but don’t hold your breath. Instead, let us focus on the parts of our lives we have a fighting chance of changing: How we live. What we buy. What we eat. What we throw away.

Like so many other troubadours down the ages, Lennon laments how it’s all gone wrong. And yes, our world has certainly gone apocalyptically pear shaped,  largely because we are trashing it. In just nine years time, by 2030, we will need two planets to provide the resources for our consumption and absorb our waste. And that is about as viable as holding your breath and hoping.

The silver lining of the pandemic is that it has finally united us all, across the globe in conducting a massive reality check.

In the UK we find that a typical household spends over £2,500 each month. In December that same household spends a whopping £1,000 extra. On what? More stuff. Can we even remember what stuff we splashed the cash on last Christmas? No, we need to be cleverer than that, to think long term. So here is a Christmas wish list from a slowly choking Planet Earth:

Christmas cards: Make your own digital cards. If you don’t have a computer, persuade someone else to send yours off. Give the cash saved to local charities. Shop bought charity cards typically donate just 15p in the pound to charity, while you can give 100p in the pound to your local charity. It’s a no-brainer.

Christmas presents: Make jam, bake cookies, knit scarves, invent toys, plant seeds, dig gardens or walk dogs for someone who can’t. That’s your exercise sorted. Use your imagination, your personal stock of pent up talent will provide presents for all. Everyone will be thrilled with your offerings. Promise.

Christmas dinner: Treat the turkey to Christmas, let it live. Cook up all your traditional, mouth watering Christmas dinner trimmings and buy in one of those delicious veggie mains to top your culinary extravaganza. No one will complain. Guaranteed.

Christmas tree: Get a UK grown real one, it’s much more environmentally friendly than a plastic one shipped in from China, and it smells nicer. By reducing the emissions from transporting trees, and recycling them by chipping, real Christmas trees become climate positive – creating, while they grow, an environment beneficial to removing carbon from the atmosphere. Win-win.

Christmas entertainment: Head over to the internet for the vast array of virtual board games, from Trivia to Cluedo, to play with absent friends. Or create your own virtual Christmas party lounge with Mozilla Hubs and invite in friends and family. No internet? Play trivia games over your speaker phones or watch telly together, while staying on the phone. Eat chocolate.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono urged us to look back at what we have done since last Christmas. Not a pretty picture, so let’s start repainting our future.  There is no time like the present so best begin now. We can do this!

We will have reinvented the Season of Good Will to suit our Modern Times. Now let’s roll out our new sustainable lifestyle into 2021 and beyond. The planet – and your children and grandchildren will breathe a lot easier as a result.

On their behalf, thank you!

Lords are a-leaping and Ladies are dancing

Lords are a-leaping and Ladies are dancing at the prospect of a free lunch for life. For our newly unelected peers, elevated to parliament by Boris Johnson, need not “Eat Out to Help Out” and get Rishi Sunak’s tenner off their pub grub. Their House of Lords dining experience is already half price, courtesy of us taxpayers.

Boris Johnson seems to be intensely relaxed about spaffing colossal wads of public cash up the wall for, what some would consider largely unproductive areas of our legislature. Shame the same degree of exuberant largesse does not apply to our kids’ school lunches. But then, kids can’t usefully benefit Johnson in return.

Never mind the ludicrousness of having an unelected body of influential decision makers in a modern democracy. If my maths tally, were all 830 House of Lords members to present themselves at the gate on a given day, pocketing their £300+ prize for turning up, the cost to the tax payer would be a cool quarter-of-a-million quid, just for that one day.

Of course, that would be silly, as only around 300 peers can actually fit onto the plush red benches in the House of Lords at any one time. But they do only have to sign in, they are then free to wander off to the lavish bars, lofty restaurants or posh libraries to while away a pleasant day with their chums. So no need for perching on each other’s laps in the chamber itself. Although that might actually add some pizzazz to the proceedings..

But I digress. Allowing for holidays, duvet days and just being generous, we are talking about a potential cost to the public purse of around £40 million a year, just for turning up and signing the register. Nice work if you can get it. Now add the aforementioned generous perks, subsidised bars, dining rooms and ancillary costs of polishing all those knobs and knockers.

What’s more, scores of these privileged many have rarely contributed anything of any use whatsoever, while claiming millions in return. Figures from 2018 showed that the average peer cost the taxpayer £83,000 with £67.9million paying for 814 members at that time.

And the good Lords and Ladies need not worry about being handed their P45 any time soon. They can’t be sacked. The job is for life. Yes really.

So kids, the moral of this story is – if you want lunch, strive towards the House of Lords.

Unless we have managed to abolish this excrutiatingly embarrassing institution it in the meantime, of course.

And all that said, we do get the government we deserve so don’t just sit there! Join the Electoral Reform Society, get stuck in, help clean up these ridiculously crony infested corners of Westminster and restore some dignity to our Parliament.


The Westminster Dating Game

On Monday the 11th of May 2020 Boris Johnson ruffled up his coiffure and with customary big arm movements made a major announcement.  Johnson cheerfully proclaimed that, in two months time, on Saturday the 4th of July to be exact, we could all go to the hairdressers again. To add a bit of froth, the pubs would open too. Had Johnson been visiting Mystic Meg or had he just peered into Dominic Cummings’ very own crystal ball?

The country was in the darkest hour of Covid lockdown, new coronavirus cases were exploding daily to above 32,000, deaths from Covid-19 were soaring to what then seemed a staggering 14,573. We were all clapping our carers on Thursdays and children would likely not be back in school till September. So what did he know that the scientists didn’t? What magic did Saturday the 4th of July hold, that would wash away our virus woes?

The answer, of course, is that Boris Johnson did not know and the 4th of July does not have any particular powers over global pandemics. What it does have, being the American Independence Day, is great recognition value. And that’s something Boris Johnson does understand – style over substance. Johnson could smartly sell this as the British Independence Day. Ironic really, given how the original July 4 came about – declaration of US independence from the rule of the British monarch.

So, this was purely a, now familiar, case of shipping out the science, and just picking another daft date with which to navigate the nation’s viral tsunami, never mind the fallout. Medics and scientists are nervous, to say the least, that, after three months of idle beer pumps, pubs are opening on a Saturday. “Can’t it at least wait till the quieter Monday?” they ask. No, Monday is the 6th of July and that sounds just a bit lame. No sound bite and oven-ready headline for Johnson to trumpet.

And the Tories do have form when it comes to picking daft dates. Here are a few of their recent prize picks:


01 April, April Fool: Day One after Brexit (it didn’t happen, fooled you?)

31 October, Halloween: Announcing a new Brexit date (Zombies?)

31 December, New Years Eve: Brexit – (again)


04 July, US Independence Day: End of the (First?) Covid-19 lockdown

At least this daft-date map comes in handy for planning our own future diaries. We can at least guess which dates we can expect for more big headline announcements from the Government:

13 July, Battle of the Boyne (controversial)

31 August, Summer Bank Holiday (let’s send this virus packing! Again)

25 October, End of Daylight Saving (darkness falls…)

05 November, Guy Fawkes Day (could be a winner)

08 November, Remembrance Sunday (in case Guy Fawkes doesn’t work)

So there’s our Boris Johnson/Dominic Cummings event roadmap for the next six months. Forewarned is forearmed. Wear a mask, wash your hands, carry a tape measure. And your diary.


London – A Never Ending Story

2017-10-03 18.30.29London is now the only English region where more people are leaving than arriving from other parts of the country – only immigration is keeping the population steady.

According to Wikipedia, city is a large human settlement. It can be defined as a permanent and densely settled place with administratively defined boundaries whose members work primarily on non-agricultural tasks. Cities generally have extensive systems for housing, transportation, sanitation, utilities, land use, and communication.

I have called many a great city my home over the years – Copenhagen, Rome, Madrid, Sydney, Los Angeles…Birmingham (not Alabama) and London. I have swung by countless other metropolises on the way but, in the end, I chose to hammer my tent pegs into the vibrant and verdant London turf.

Several decades, a nuclear family and much career action later, I look at London and wonder what the hell happened?! I can still sense the muffled echo of 70s music, the 24/7 crazy madness, the cool challenges, delicious opportunities, the daunting jeopardy.

But today all around me, instead of exciting curiosity, I detect an exhausted scowl on our collective face, leaving me to wonder if all the great London quotes we know so well, still hold true, fashioned as they were, by fabulous Londoners throughout this city’s illustrious history?

Did Samuel Johnson ever scowl at London life? “You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford”. Certainly no regrets there for Johnson, having relocated south from his native Lichfield.

Yet more than a third of a million citizens got tired of London in 2018, the largest number since data collection began in 2012. Surely, they can’t all be tired of life? London is now the only English region where more people are leaving than arriving from other parts of the country – only immigration is keeping the population steady.

So let’s look for a better answer. Do we need to swap Samuel Johnson for Jane Austen? The truth is, that in London it is always a sickly season. Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be.”

Our Jane penned those words a cool couple of hundred years ago, but she might as well have brought them into the world yesterday.

For London and we Londoners anno 2020 are in serious trouble, and not just due to the  Covid-19 pandemic. Far from bubbling along merrily, our city is slowly imploding but, in true Titanic style, the music keeps playing over at the Albert, while across in Hyde Park the deckchairs are being straightened meticulously.

Ever more gazillions of pounds are hoovered up by a shambolically delayed Crossrail project, while the existing London Underground is collapsing under the strain of five  million Londoners trying to get to work every morning, in order to create the wealth that pays for it all.

Gleaming apartment blocks, built for profit, not for people, stand empty while the numbers of homeless and poorly housed families go through the roof. Housing charity Shelter’s 2019 calculations estimate that 1 in every 52 people in London is homeless.  I know. Surely that can’t be right, you say? Go on, look it up. It is right.

How much more will it take before we get a grip?

Perhaps those 370,000 Londoners, who now leave town every year, just want their kids to be able to breathe some old fashioned fresh air? The kind of sweet fresh air we are breathing right now, courtesy of the Corona lockdown. That’s not too much to ask. Except that in London, in normal times, it is too much to ask. London typically reaches the legal air pollution limit for the whole year around the third week in January. Yes.

The Mayor of London’s figures show that more than two million Londoners live in areas exceeding legal air limits – including 400,000 children. Bizarrely, according to recent air quality measurements, one of Camden’s worst spots for air pollution is the leafy junction of swanky South Grove and Highgate West Hill. Here, the pollution level frequently reaches double the legal limit. And to think that I always imagined that once I got out of London and up to the top of Dick Whittington’s vantage point, I could start safely filling my lungs again.

But CO2 and especially the really nasty, but nimble NO2 don’t quite work like that. It’s all to do with the appliance of science, molecular weight and air currents. Apparently.

Nevertheless, we North Londoners who salute the old adage A bad day in London is still better than a good day anywhere else” are so lucky to have scores of Green residents, who care deeply about our environment and the welfare of our fellow citizens.

And there never was a better time for rolling up our civic sleeves and start setting to work fixing our great city. Campaigners in the civic societies, the neighbourhood forums, the Transition Towns groups, the tenants’ and residents’ associations and the army of truly amazing unsung legends, all, in their own way, shine a light into the murky corridors of power, asking tough questions wherever decisions are made.

For “It is not the walls that make the city, but the people who live within them”, Wikipedia never mentioned the people. George VI did!

So, to all you community spirited people: Please don’t stop doing what you’re doing! London is a never ending story.

181227 W'LOW PK WS

Waterlow Park, Highgate

Election 2019: In conversation with Kirsten de Keyser, Green Party

190913 27 KDK MS PY

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